Paul, guilty of 'mortal sin'?

Acts 8.1 tells us that S/Paul acquiesced in the stoning of the Hellenist Stephen. Following his Christophany, he withdraws to Arabia for three years (Gal 1.17) and then returns to Jerusalem in Acts 9.26 where the Hellenists are - unsurprisingly - still p***ed off with him. What might Stephen's parents and extended family have said to S/Paul, had they met in the street? I understand that there is a pious tradition amongst the Orthodoxen (@mousethief, @cyprian) that Paul and Stephen were related, which would add to his moral burden. OCICBW.

I'm led to wonder whether there is any interpretative tradition of Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' (2Cor 12.7) being related to remorse/regret/depression for his part in the persecutions exemplified in Stephen? Thus 'my grace [of forgiveness] is sufficient [even] for you [the persecutor]'.

In looking at this, I'm also struck by the parallel between the jab of the 'goads' (Acts 26.14) and of the aforementioned thorn, but the Gk uses different words.


Comments

  • I've not heard of that legend, nor did a quick search of my favorite saint sites, especially St. Patrick's of D.C. which is pretty good about digging up pious legends. (They have a real whopper about his body being found by someone whom Gamaliel came to in a dream.) But nothing about a relationship to Paul.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I've not heard of that legend, nor did a quick search of my favorite saint sites, especially St. Patrick's of D.C. which is pretty good about digging up pious legends. (They have a real whopper about his body being found by someone whom Gamaliel came to in a dream.) But nothing about a relationship to Paul.

    My research took me to here, but I couldn't find any other references.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Qoheleth wrote: »
    Acts 8.1 tells us that S/Paul acquiesced in the stoning of the Hellenist Stephen. Following his Christophany, he withdraws to Arabia for three years (Gal 1.17) and then returns to Jerusalem in Acts 9.26 where the Hellenists are - unsurprisingly - still p***ed off with him. What might Stephen's parents and extended family have said to S/Paul, had they met in the street? I understand that there is a pious tradition amongst the Orthodoxen (@mousethief, @cyprian) that Paul and Stephen were related, which would add to his moral burden. OCICBW.

    I'm led to wonder whether there is any interpretative tradition of Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' (2Cor 12.7) being related to remorse/regret/depression for his part in the persecutions exemplified in Stephen? Thus 'my grace [of forgiveness] is sufficient [even] for you [the persecutor]'.

    In looking at this, I'm also struck by the parallel between the jab of the 'goads' (Acts 26.14) and of the aforementioned thorn, but the Gk uses different words.


    If they were Christians they would be obliged to forgive Paul
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    OCICBW? Something before wicket?
  • I had to google it.

    OCICBW=Of course I could be wrong.
  • Qoheleth wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    I've not heard of that legend, nor did a quick search of my favorite saint sites, especially St. Patrick's of D.C. which is pretty good about digging up pious legends. (They have a real whopper about his body being found by someone whom Gamaliel came to in a dream.) But nothing about a relationship to Paul.

    My research took me to here, but I couldn't find any other references.

    Your link has an extra https:// in it. The one in this post should work.

    That's interesting. I didn't think to check OrthodoxWiki because they tend to be rather reactionary bordering on neonazi, but in this they stole it straight from the Prologue of Ochrid. (I looked it up in the print Prologue which course as a once-overzealous new convert, I still have. This is the first I've cracked it since 2013.) All it says is that he's a "kinsman of the Apostle Paul" (twice). It also says Gamaliel was a "Jewish prince and a secret Christian" so I'm not going to bet the farm on its accuracy.

    But yeah, something I didn't know.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I had to google it.

    OCICBW=Of course I could be wrong.

    Thanks - perhaps the poster was wrong in assuming that everyone would know a strange acronym.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I had to google it.

    OCICBW=Of course I could be wrong.

    Thanks - perhaps the poster was wrong in assuming that everyone would know a strange acronym.

    Indeed I was, apologies. And back to the gist of the OP, I'm interested whether any other interpreter has looked at Paul's σκόλοψ (splinter, thorn)in terms of mental health, rather than physical?
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    I'd definitely seen that (and I think seen it as being external as well). I think I've also seen something claiming it as effectively a euphemism (but I think that's more a sex sells argument rather than anything founded)

    The Barclay commentary has (in this order)
    Spiritual temptations (which he ascribes to Calvin(ists))
    Practical opposition/persecution (which he says is Luther(an))
    Carnal temptations (their words) (which is apparently Catholic)
    Bad looks
    Epilepsy
    Migraines (ascribed to Jerome and tertillan)
    Eye issues (the writers clearly preferred)
    Malaria

    Which suggests that actual mental health issues are neglected (I do think I've seen depression mentioned as well). But psychological issues are high on the list.
    (I'm not sure what other branches are expected to have believed)
  • My grandmother was convinced that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was hemorrhoids.
  • jay_emm wrote: »
    Which suggests that actual mental health issues are neglected (I do think I've seen depression mentioned as well).

    I've long thought 2 Corinthians 1 suggests Paul suffered from depression, especially verses 8 and 9:
    We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
  • Good to see you, @Eutychus!
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    My grandmother was convinced that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was hemorrhoids.

    How appropriate! As below, so above: he could be a right royal PITA.
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Good to see you, @Eutychus!

    Indeed.
  • What is the biblical basis for the concept of 'mortal sin'? Is its significance particularly for those who believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment (hell) for the 'unsaved'?
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    What is the biblical basis for the concept of 'mortal sin'? Is its significance particularly for those who believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment (hell) for the 'unsaved'?
    Well, given that there are lots of people who believe in the latter without believing in the former, I wouldn’t think so. I’ve never seen the mortal/venal sin distinction outside a Roman Catholic context.

  • So given that it is an RC distinction what is its significance to the OP?
  • In my experience, outwith the RC 'mortal sin' is used to signify a serious sin (such as participating in murder) even though the use doesn't necessarily carry the full weight of RC doctrine with it. 'Venal sin', on the other hand, is never used in my experience except within specific RC contexts.
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    So given that it is an RC distinction what is its significance to the OP?

    No more than a convenient shorthand for an attention grabbing title to denote a grave or serious sin, such as aiding and abetting a murder. Or more generally, his persecutions of early Xtns.

  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    'Venal sin', on the other hand, is never used in my experience except within specific RC contexts.

    I think you mean "venial". Venal means corrupt.

  • Yes, sorry.

    All sins corrupt us, or result from our corruption, or both.
  • was the stoning of Stephen a common or garden murder or was it judicial capital punishment?
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    was the stoning of Stephen a common or garden murder or was it judicial capital punishment?

    If I recall Saul was going around killing Christians (not yet so called) but they were not all afforded a trial. If I recall also, the Jews weren't allowed to kill people, and had to leave that job up to the Romans, so the stonings were illegal. Better educated heads will have to say if that's right or not.
  • Stephen seems to have started with judicial elements. In response to (apparently false) accusations, he is bought before a council including a 'high priest'.
    After his defence speech (which does seem to give some credibility to the content of the accusers accusation) it seems to be disorganised (compare with the aftermath of Jesus's trials, which seems to support the 'no right to carry out justice').
    That doesn't seem legitimately judicial but it's not common either.

    Acts doesn't seem to commit to a stabby/stoney Saul.
    There's something to do with coats and Saul 'consents to stephens death' acts 8.

    Other than that he causes havok on the church by grabbing men and women and committing them to prison.
    And in acts 9, he 'breathes threats and slaughter' but asks for letters to rendition them to Jerusalem (and Ananias and the people only talk about binding).

    It would be easy for 'accidents' and the like to happen (any modern day analogues I'd basically be waiting for the details to come out). So it would definitely be in character for the type of person portrayed but isn't directly portrayed here (there are other verses of course).
    Given Luke had a purpose in writing, it also doesn't seem unreasonable that he needed to include that side (as something to convert from), while not wanting to make him too unrelatable (in a way that specific fatal violence would)
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    was the stoning of Stephen a common or garden murder or was it judicial capital punishment?

    If I recall Saul was going around killing Christians (not yet so called) but they were not all afforded a trial. If I recall also, the Jews weren't allowed to kill people, and had to leave that job up to the Romans, so the stonings were illegal. Better educated heads will have to say if that's right or not.
    . My italics.

    Indeed, the reason given for taking Jesus before Pilate was that the Jewish courts or other bodies were not allowed to impose capital punishment.
  • ... though it's an old, old game to look the other way while a mob (possibly instigated) accomplishes the murder you want, and then you tell the authorities that things got out of hand and you couldn't stop them in time.
  • I expect that the Romans probably didn't care that much, so long as the lynch mobs didn't go after anyone who was supporting the Roman system.

    The Jewish authorities wanted to make sure Jesus was executed in public, with no one claiming Jesus wasn't really killed, they also probably weren't sure which way the crowds would swing (afterall, they felt the need to arrest him at night in private). Getting the Romans to do the deed was the perfect solution - if the crowd tried to intervene to save Jesus then the entire Jerusalem garrison would be down on the mob, and crucifixion was a very public prolonged form of execution that would leave no one in any doubt that Jesus was well and truly dead.

    By the time of the murder of Stephen and James, the Jewish authorities knew they only had to worry about the followers of Jesus (and, if they came out to defend any of the leaders of the church that would be an easy way to identify the next people to round up) and knew that the majority of the people supported them (or, at the very least, were indifferent).
  • This thread has prompted me to re-read a lot of Acts.

    I can't work out who did the stoning; does the 'they' in 7.57 refer to the 'people and the elders and the teachers of the law (6.12) or just the Sanhedrin, or the 'members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen' (6.9)?. Did the Sanhedrin meet in the open with a sort 'public gallery' so there could be a large number people partaking in the proceedings?

    I also notice that Stephen's Speech includes reference to Moses killing the Egyptian -surely a mortal sin?!
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    I also notice that Stephen's Speech includes reference to Moses killing the Egyptian -surely a mortal sin?!

    and indeed the Hebrew Bible is peppered with sinful characters, some of whom feature in the genealogy of the 'Son of David'

  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    This thread has prompted me to re-read a lot of Acts.

    I can't work out who did the stoning; does the 'they' in 7.57 refer to the 'people and the elders and the teachers of the law (6.12) or just the Sanhedrin, or the 'members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen' (6.9)?. Did the Sanhedrin meet in the open with a sort 'public gallery' so there could be a large number people partaking in the proceedings?

    I also notice that Stephen's Speech includes reference to Moses killing the Egyptian -surely a mortal sin?!

    Looking purely at the psychology the situation is slightly opposite which could have some affect. If Moses had been called by the burning bush to be a priest of Ra and Paul to lead temple services (aside from implying an inconsistent cosmos) then it might have been Moses who felt guilty and Paul who felt vindicated.

    I think you could argue that Moses's killing was in defence (and there are examples where he's supportive of more dubious killings)
    Stephen certainly doesn't seem to have treated it as a mortal sin but a redemptive act v25/35 "this Moses who you refused, saying who made you ruler and judge" [will you kill us like the Egyptian].
    As arguments go, it's a bit of a suicidal argument.

    It does say 'they' took Stephen outside the city, which would allow other people to get involved and even Jesus's trial wasnt closed.
    It doesn't seem obvious in this passage, though. It's a long callback whichever of the two.
  • thank you @jay_emm interesting!
  • They are (of course) only my thoughts (and based on the English translations)
    I will take the chance to point out that the way I read Stephens interpretation (of exodus) as given in acts, is not the way I would have read the exodus passage myself.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    I suspect the problem was Paul's mother in law.

    Less misogynistically, Paul described himself as the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1 verse 15: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief, " so I guess whatever the taxonomy of sinning you employ, the apostle, by his own admission, was bottom of the worst category.
  • Kwesi wrote: »
    ... the apostle, by his own admission, was bottom of the worst category.

    By his own admission, and in the opinion of Stephen's mum.

  • Kwesi wrote: »
    I suspect the problem was Paul's mother in law.

    Less misogynistically, Paul described himself as the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy 1 verse 15: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief, " so I guess whatever the taxonomy of sinning you employ, the apostle, by his own admission, was bottom of the worst category.

    But as that not an independent assessment IMHO it should be viewed the same as many admissions of people that they "are the worst", or the exultations over newborns that they are "the most beautiful baby in the world"!
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    LatchKeyKid: But as that not an independent assessment IMHO it should be viewed the same as many admissions of people that they "are the worst", or the exultations over newborns that they are "the most beautiful baby in the world"!

    I'm not sure whether to take your observation seriously or with a measure of humour. ISTM, nevertheless, that however much one might consider the element of hyperbole, the apostle is making a very important theological point about the extent of salvation.
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